The vulgar chime of the shop door announced her arrival. Darren didn’t know her name. He knew that she worked in a nearby office. He knew also that she always bought a chicken and sweetcorn sandwich and a Diet Coke for lunch. And he knew she had a nice smile. He was certain about that.
She was a regular customer of the ‘24-7’. It was the only retail outlet within walking distance so this was perhaps unsurprising. Many of her co-workers also bought their sandwiches from the shop. The difference, in Darren’s eyes, was that she was less condescending.
Perhaps it was because they wore suits and he a bright red polo shirt, or perhaps it was the wages that the polo shirt represented, but some of her colleagues definitely looked down on Darren. He didn’t mind, or particularly care. Working at the ‘24-7’ had given him the flexibility to pursue other ambitions. The envelope he’d received that morning, which currently nestled in his left pocket, reassured him it had all been worth it.
She glided through the aisles, past the biscuits, and the magazines, towards the fridge at the back of the shop. Darren followed her with his eyes but as she glanced back in his direction, he quickly averted his gaze.
He glanced towards the sorry-looking flower display. In all the time he’d worked there, Darren couldn’t remember ever selling any flowers. He’d worked the morning shift, the afternoon shift and the night shift and never once had anyone purchased an overpriced bouquet. Every week the flower delivery guy would come and replenish the stock, taking away the older, sadder bunches, leaving behind, what was still a fairly second-rate assortment of carnations, roses and freesias. It would take a pretty desperate individual to spend their hard-earned money on such pathetic specimens.
But it was Darren’s last day at the ’24-7’ and it occurred to him he might never see her again. If ever Darren had experienced a ‘Carpe Diem’ moment then this was surely it.
Desperate times called for desperate measures and those flowers were certainly a desperate measure.
Vaulting over the counter, he scooped up a battered bunch of begonias that had seen better days and marched over to her.
She eyed him with a curious smile as he presented the feeble flowers.
“Hi I’m Darren”, he grinned pointing at his name badge, “what’s your name?”